Sri Lanka came within an ace of scoring their maiden win in Test cricket, only resolute batting by Vengsarkar and interference from typically tropical weather denying them their opportunity. In a match of fluctuating fortunes, the home team took all the honours and at one point, as 17 were taken off Kapil Dev's first over, threatened to meet the target of 123 runs in eleven overs.
A painstaking half-century by Gavaskar, batting in the middle order, helped India consume time in their first innings as De Mel led the Sri Lankan seam attack with a haul of five wickets. There was a memorable début for Ahangama when he had Azharuddin caught behind off his fourth ball in Test cricket, the catch being the first of Silva's six in the innings. The Sri Lankans were in early trouble against Chetan Sharma before Madugalle and Ranatunga, with their maiden Test hundreds, got the better of an Indian attack whose penetration was nullified as the days became brighter. Madugalle batted for 403 minutes, Ranatunga for over five and a half hours.
There was little hint of the trouble to come for India when they began their second essay on the fourth morning. However, Ratnayake, who had sent back Rajput and Gavaskar in the space of four balls in the evening, struck in quick succession to capture three wickets in fifteen balls on the final day after rain had accounted for one vital session and dented the home side's ambitions. Only Vengsarkar's unbeaten 98 in six and three-quarter hours ensured that India went ahead by more than 100 runs in the last twenty overs.
Sri Lanka changed their batting order in an attempt to meet their target, and Aravinda de Silva sounded the challenge by hooking Kapil Dev for 6 the moment the second innings began. India had as many as seven men on the boundary as the first four overs produced 38 runs, but in trying to keep up the frenetic pace, Sri Lanka lost three wickets in eight balls and had settled for a draw when bad light brought an early finish.